Do you worry about how to handle big social events with chronic illness?
Yesterday was my cousin’s wedding. When we were children we used to stay at my grandma’s together and were thick as thieves. We played together, put on dance shows, and as we got older talked a lot about boys. I looked up to her and loved her so much. Then I became estranged from this side of my family and have had barely any contact with them for the past 11 years.
So when I received the invitation to her wedding I was overcome with emotion and excitement, but also nerves. I was very nervous about meeting my family again. Additionally, this would be the first big event I would be attending since being diagnosed with Fibromyalgia. I worried that the day might be too long for me to handle. Would the seating aggravate my back and leg pain? Might I get foot pain which meant it hurt to stand during the service? What if the food disagreed with me? The list was endless, and the worries made worse by the fact I knew my symptoms are unpredictable. And finally, if any of my symptoms did flare up, would my family understand?
Well I can tell you I had an amazing day! Here are some tips on how to handle big social events based on my experience:
First and foremost, don’t let chronic illness take away your joy. If you are ambivalent about the event or don’t really want to go then the smart choice would be to put yourself first and say no. Don’t attend events out of duty and risk putting yourself in pain or discomfort. But some events cannot be missed. I could not bypass seeing my favourite cousin walk down the aisle and the opportunity to reconnect with my family. So I took the first big step and said yes.
I feared having a major flare up which clashed with the wedding, meaning I would have to drop out potentially on the day. But I told myself that anyone could get ill on the day of a big event, and this should not stop me making plans. Then I set about considering how I could make the experience as pain-free as possible so I could concentrate on having fun.
Scheduling in rest time
As part of my planning process I took out my bullet journal and blocked out the day before and after the wedding to rest. I wanted to attend the event feeling rested and ensure I had time to recover. In actual fact it took me a couple of days for the fatigue and brain fog to ease off after the wedding. Luckily I also had an extra day free and I listened to my body and gave myself the extra day. But I would bear this in mind for future planning as only leaving one day was probably too optimistic! Of course the time needed for rest and recovery will vary for everyone and you will know – or come to learn – what your body needs.
Considering my outfit choice carefully
Who doesn’t attend a wedding without carefully considering their outfit right? However this time I found my criteria had changed. I knew the day would be long and did not want to start the day feeling a million bucks, only to be flagging two hours in because of a bad outfit choice.
I knew I would feel uncomfortable if I was wearing something tight and figure hugging which might dig into my body or make me feel as though I could not breathe. So I chose a 50s style dress which was fitted to the waist and then flared out. It hit just below the knee so I did not have to waste time worrying about what might be on show! It also meant that should my stomach bloat – as it always does – this would be hidden and I would not feel self-conscious. Nothing would be pressing on my stomach reducing the chance of stomach cramps.
I struggle to regulate my temperature, fluctuating between hot and cold. If the cold strikes I find it really difficult to warm up again and my pain tends to flare up. So I took a warm cardigan with me. This meant I would not be cold in the church but could easily remove this as the temperature rose during the party in the evening.
Finally – the shoes. I deliberated over this for a long time. I tend not to wear heels as it exacerbates my foot pain. But it just didn’t feel right not wearing heels with such a dressy outfit. So I chose a very low block heel with a padded foot-bed and an ankle strap. I almost chose something higher with a slingback and a stiletto heel. They looked beautiful and that’s how I wanted to feel. I hated having to compromise and felt resentful. However I made the smart choice and when the day came around I was so glad I did. They held up all day with no discomfort!
A final outfit tip
I shopped online and tried on a few different options in the comfort of my own home. This meant I did not wear myself out shopping before I had even got to the wedding.
Leave sufficient time to get ready
Everyone knows the old jokes about how long it takes a woman to get ready. I was never one of these women before my chronic illness – I went at a million miles an hour. However on the morning of the wedding I made sure I had time to keep resting inbetween the tasks of getting ready. Even when I felt I could keep going I took the time to rest anyway. I’m not going to lie – it was a bit boring for me! I’m not someone who ‘enjoys’ the process of getting ready. But I made sure that I did not wear myself out before the day had really begun.
Take someone you trust
As my family did not know about my chronic illness this was really important to me. I took my partner with me. I felt more confident just knowing I had someone there who understood. And when my leg started to seize up during the party in the evening I asked him if he would come for a stroll around the car park with me. I might have felt a bit silly doing this alone, but together we just looked as though we were getting some air.
Having him there also meant he could remind me the most important thing…
Don’t overdo it!
I was so tempted to stay just a bit longer. I was having such a good day. But he was there to remind me that a bit of extra time was not worth the potential consequences. So I left on a high with great memories.
I was so worried before the wedding that my days of enjoying big social events were over. But by planning ahead and listening to my body I managed to make it a success.
So here’s my challenge to you – next time you get an invitation to an event that you don’t want to miss…say yes!
Do you have any tips for managing social events? Let’s learn from each other. Leave a comment and share what works for you.